Geoff Leeper, second commissioner of the ATO, noted that the automation process would impact the accounting profession, but would only alter the types of work available.
“Of course they’ll have work; they just won’t be doing as much work simply entering data into a spreadsheet or an online form because the software will do that stuff automatically,” he said.
Mr Leeper defended the presence of automation, and insisted that new avenues would open up for accountants to pursue advisory roles.
“We are not trying to do tax agents out of a role; there are always going to be those questions of interpretation and that question of people’s confidence in dealing with the tax system,” he said.
“There is also the potential upside of the financial services profession and the tax agent profession being able to reposition themselves slightly as trusted business advisers."
Mr Leeper noted that expanding the relationship with small business would be one of the most beneficial means of expanding advisory offerings.
“Anybody starting a small business I would think would much rather be paying their tax adviser or their financial adviser around business strategy than to be paying them for data entry,” he said.
“We are really encouraging the tax profession to think about how they position themselves to add value to that business through financial management, financial control, cash flow and business development."
Taxpayers would simply struggle to trust the tax office if there was no tax agent present in the process since they actively seek deductions for their clients, he said.
“Speaking hypothetically, if we were saying to people that the tax office can make sure you get the maximum amount of your tax returned, I don’t think people would believe us,” Mr Leeper said.
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